MONROVIA: Incumbency power is something any national leader would maximize, and pundits conjecture that President George M. Weah could have done so giving his successful first term, coupled with the competitive or close nature of the 2023 elections results. There must have been colossal temptation over the place, and the windows were open for it. But he did not do anything odd, leaving politically-minded officials and members of his Coalition for Democratic Change in tears and apprehensions when he flaunted the white flag in concession to his rival Joseph N. Boakai. Why he did so rather dramatically? Only he alone got the answer, and that, he says, is his way of putting peace and democracy over politics and personal job. The Analyst reports.
In an apparent reaction to waves of misgivings amongst his supporters and partisans of the Coalition for Democratic Change which greeted his decision to concede defeat to his main challenger and standard bearer of the Unity Party, Ambassador Joseph Nyuma Boakai, President George Manneh Weah has given a clear insight of why he took the honorable decision even when the National Elections Commission (NEC) was yet to conclude the final results of the runoff.
The decision of the President to prematurely place a concession call to his rival is fiercely reject in other quarters of his Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) party. Right now, the party says while it respects the President’s overture, it was not quitting the battle but would pursue it to the logical conclusion.
But while the CDC is fighting tooth and nail to perhaps undo the results of the runoff elections released by the NEC, on account of what it called fraud, the man for whom the battle is renewed says Liberia deserves peace and democracy that political bickering over elections results that were so close.
“We need to keep the peace that we have been enjoying and the democracy our people fought for over the years,” President Weah asserted Sunday, November 19, 2023 when he made a special remark at the end of the regular church service held at his Forkay Kloh Jlaleh Family Fellowship, Paynesville.
The Liberian leader used the opportunity to speak widely about the just concluded elections, among which was to provide reasons why he took the path of what others call premature concession.
According to him, among many priorities in life, he puts high premium on peace, such that before he even became president of the country he worked for peace.
“Without peace, everything we are talking about here, election or no election, development or no development, nothing we can do,” he added.
“Our people’s memories are still fresh on what they went through for 14 years, and we should not be repeating things to bring war and destroy our people again,” President Weah continued.
“We should be able to confront our differences without going into a fight; and so not only we the leaders but also every citizen. We all have our role to play in sustaining the peace.”
President Weah, dressed in a white flowing gown and accompanied by his wife Mrs. Clar Marie Weah spoke of the oneness of the citizens as “one nucleus family” and saw no reason why he will work against the existence of peace in the country.
While making reference to his predecessor, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for her role in keeping the peace during her 12 years in office, President Weah said he inherited that important thing that should concern mankind, and in line with the oath of office he took, he ensured citizens that nothing was to be done to derail the relative peace the country continues to enjoy since the end of hostilities in 2003.
He challenged the incoming administration of the President-elect Ambassador Joseph Nyumah Boakai to follow what he met so that the “wounds created by this election will be healed; so that our people will be united to work for peace collectively.”
He called on the incoming administration to not engage in what he called “witch hunting of my officials”.
“We must prioritize the welfare of our people and the development of the country. By pursuing witch hunts against my officials and me, we risk derailing the peace we have worked towards,” he said.
The Liberian leader said it is important that the President-elect focus on his agenda and avoid being distracted by investigations and prosecutions, which would significantly negatively impact the peace of the country.
“The unity and peace of this country are paramount,” he said. “It’s because of the peace of this country that our government did not go after them, the past Unity Party Government officials.
The President added: “Ambassador Boakai needs to keep the peace. Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf turned over power to us, and we maintained the peace. Mr. Boakai needs to do the same.”
He said his decision to concede came as personal sacrifice for him to make for the survival and peaceful co-existence of the country. “If I had listened to what others wanted, then we would not be here today.”
He told the congregation that the narrow margin recorded in the runoff showed that there is deep division among the citizens and challenged Mr. Boakai to address the issues, even if not all, so as to cure the growing division among the people.
Speaking further, he said he conceded to save the country’s democracy which is growing and that on several occasions among his West African counterparts as leaders, he criticized some of his colleagues who made selfish changes to their respective constitutions to prolong their stay in power.
“I have been consistent with what I have been saying about promoting democracy in this country and elsewhere,” Dr. Weah also noted.
“I have told my colleagues in the sub-region that changing the Constitution to favor the incumbent is another form of military coup and we leaders must work towards peace through the democratic process.”
“Now, if I can do this thing, then how can I come back home to derail the democratic process that we have fought to build,” he continued.
President Weah also used the moment to offer words of consolation to partisans of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and his supporters for “our loss during the election. This should strengthen us. It should galvanize us so that we can stay together and fight together better in the future.”
He said he was aware of how hurt they are, stating that obviously, blames will be shifted but “for now, it should not be the time to blame each other; we should blame ourselves on what we did not do that brought this thing to us.”
He called on CDCians to look beyond the defeat because lamentations and blame games will only weaken their spirit.
He said CDCians endured some of the difficult times for 12 years when they were in opposition and for 6 years in power “doing what the Liberian people expected from us”.
“I am not going anywhere,” he assured his supporters. “I will be with you like how I used to do. Together we will work as a united family for 2029. We are not leaving you. We too will be in the opposition to put their feet to the fire and I hope that they too will grant us our right to protest and the same way we gave them water and food, they should be able to do similar things to us”.
He said the defeat should be like a learning curve for everyone to look and take serious action to get back to power.
“This will only be possible if we are not willing to trade blames to bring ourselves down because this is what our opponent wants,” he warned partisans.
The emotional remark from the President brought uncontrollable tears in the eyes of the congregation, majority of whom were his supporters including government officials who had gone there to worship and listen to him on what was on his mind after losing.